It's been a while, but I thought I would update with a rough draft of something that happened to me today.
I’ve always loved train stations.
They’re strange places, and places like that are harder and harder to find now that we’re so paranoid about security.
Train stations seem much more laid back than the airports I’ve been to. Airports imply long tips, hectic security, lots of screaming kids and fighting families. People still move quickly, there are still family squabbles, and lots of stress, but not like sitting in the airport waiting for a crammed plane.
I love watching the people in Union Station. My train comes in around 8:00 AM each morning, but I don’t have to be at work until 9:30. Usually I grab a muffin, a paper, and a seat in one of the waiting areas.
I like the chance to watch people. You can learn a lot about a person from the way they act in a train station, from the way they walk, what they wear, and what they have with them.
There are so many people in there in the morning. Some are coming to Washington for the first time, looking at the grand hall of the station in wonder and awe at the Capitol City. This is the place that they’ve heard of for so long in the news. This is where things happen. When they go home tonight and hear that “The Senate voted today in Washington on the immigration bill,” they can say to themselves “Wow, I was there.”
Some are commuters. They charge through the station, looking forward, staring ahead at their day at a desk, in an air-conditioned office somewhere. They walk as a mass, walking blindly from their trains to the station like Lemmings over the cliff. Some nervously button their suit jackets or hold their purses tightly to them as they ignore the sights around them- they’ve seen them so often. Some of them queue up at Starbucks or Au Bon Pain for a coffee and maybe a Danish. Most just leave, and go about their day, bidding farewell to the station until 5, when the mad-rush starts for the elusive seat on the express train.
Some are Tourists, writ large. Those tend to be the most annoying when you’re in a hurry. Some of them are the first-comers, but they’re a sub-class all of their own. These are the people who wear matching t-shirts so they don’t get lost in the Smithsonian. These are the people who walk veeeerrrrrryyyyyy sloooooooowwwwllllyyyyy through the station in as wide a path as they possibly can. They’re the ones that stop right in front of you, pull out a map, and seem rather confused when the 150,000,000,000 commuters trying to walk through that very point get a little angry.
Some are mysteries.
Take today for example. I sat down near gate E, pulled out my paper and my chocolate muffin, and started my morning routine. It’s peaceful, and it gives me a little bit of time to myself. Besides, who doesn’t like a chocolate muffin?
A few minutes later, I turned my head, and there was a man about my age staring at me. We made eye contact, and then he looked away. I watched him for a moment, and gave him a once over.
There was something attractive about him. He was about 18-20 or so- looked to be in the early years of college. His facial features were smooth, without any sharp lines or the like. He had a small smile on his face as he looked off in a different direction. His hair was dirty blonde and had obviously been swept was wearing a loose t-shirt that still highlighted the fact that he was lightly muscled. Basically, Jeremy like.
I was sitting there for about 30-40 minutes, and I made eye contact with this guy a good four or five times. Each time we both looked away after a few seconds. I noticed a few things about him from the way he carried himself.
I think he knew he was attractive, but he didn’t seem overly comfortable with it. He was wearing slightly too-baggy clothing, and he wasn’t sitting and looking around like he was God’s gift to women or, as I think, to men.
Outside of the station, I saw a man who did think he was God’s gift to everyone. I’ll give him that – he was very attractive. It annoyed me, however, that he was strutting around, pulling up his arms so his shirt tightened across his chest. It screamed vanity and stupidity to me. Physically attractive is nice, but it’s not everything.
Back in the station, I had looked up and over my shoulder again. Instead of finding a cute guy with a mysterious smile, there was an old woman clutching her ticket as tightly as she could.
He had gone. He went from being a nice diversion from my morning commute back to being one of the many people in a teeming world. I went back to my paper, oddly disappointed.
I got up a few minutes later, threw away my trash, and started to wander around the station. I guess I was hoping to see him again, but I doubt I would have done anything. I probably would have smiled awkwardly, and looked down a few seconds later. I wouldn’t have said hi, or “accidentally” bumped into him. I would have smiled at him, walked past, and then smirked to myself later on.
Perhaps, if I had been more brave, I would have gotten up and thrown my trash away earlier. The station wasn’t full enough to be able to pull off an “is this seat taken?” line, but I could have tried it. I could have just said “morning” walking past him. I could have done something.
But I didn’t. I let him pass silently out of my life without even getting to say hello. Not to mention getting his name, and no where near getting his number.
If this were a movie, I’m sure he would have bumped into me later, and spilled a coke on my suit. If this were a movie, I would have laughed, struck up a conversation, and gotten his phone number. If this were a movie, I would have a nice evening tonight.
Life isn’t a movie.
Somehow I need to learn how to act a little more bravely. I need to not look away. I need to smile and realize that I don’t have to be afraid. I can’t just keep waiting for someone to walk up to me and hit me in the face. I have to walk up to them.
I need to take control of my own life, of my actions, and my desires. I need to learn to get in the way, to stare at the architecture, and get in the way of the people I want to talk to. I think I’d like life more as a tourist.